Hyde Park Theatre's The Wolves

This fun, honest, real production of Sarah DeLappe's play zeroes in on the best part of playing a sport: being on a team

The thrill of victory: (l-r) Sydney Huddleston, Anikka Lekven, Adrian Collins, Maria Latiolais, Kelsey Buckley, Estrella Saldaña, Kenzie Stewart, and Shonagh Smith (Photo by Bret Brookshire)

Traditionally, athletes and theatre geeks are oil and water, but I have a confession to make. Before I found my way to Ms. Tolle­son's theatre room in 10th grade, I was a softball junkie – pitcher, first base, and power hitter (not bragging, but totally bragging). The apex of my brief sports career consisted of winning second place in the state of Texas with my team, the Temple Hustlers (GO HUSTLERS!) in a tournament that culminated in an adrenaline-sucking past midnight double-header with the El Paso Lions, who only won because they were using trick pitches, but I'm not bitter.

However, any teenager on an athletic team can tell you that while the game consumes most of your energy, what happens off the field can be infinitely more interesting and important. The Wolves, Hyde Park Theatre's newest offering, is a do-not-miss story about a girl's indoor soccer team that takes you through their season sans actual sports and instead focuses on the team in the moments before and after their games.

And these ladies have a lot going on. Scouts are coming. Nationals are in Miami, and everyone is super pumped to go. There's a cold being passed around. There's a weird new girl this year who lives in a yurt and is a complete soccer prodigy, even though she says she's never played before. There's a girl on the team who still wears pads. Another one might have gotten an abortion. The team captain's being a complete hardass. And if that wasn't enough, the goalie's performance anxiety has been manifesting itself in the form of complete silence interspersed with projectile vomiting.

With the Southwest premiere of The Wolves, HPT Artistic Director Ken Webster (along with assistant director Rosalind Faires) has created an acting ensemble that must be seen to be believed. Over the course of 90 uninterrupted minutes, this group of incredibly talented women (Kelsey Buckley, Adrian Collins, Sydney Huddleston, Maria Latiolais, Anikka Lekven, Estrella Saldaña, Bridget Sievers, Shonagh Smith, Kenzie Stewart, and Austin theatre veteran Rebecca Robinson) turn in some honest, powerful, and memorable performances. Extra kudos go to Lekven, who, despite her character's silence, gives one of the deepest, funniest, and most moving performances of the evening.

In addition to superlative acting and direction, The Wolves sports a script that is a complete slam-dunk. Sarah DeLappe's flawless (and Pulitzer-nominated) text grows and shrinks just like real-time group conversation, constantly splitting into smaller simultaneous sidebars that blossom back into group discussion. The gallery of characters is recognizable without being stereotypical, and while all the dull pink "likes" and "you knows" are present in the language that DeLappe uses, these girls are anything but teenyboppers. Yes, boys are mentioned, but this group of gals tends to trend less toward discussions of who-likes-who and more toward Armenian genocide or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Furthermore, the play's narrative structure is clean and smart, effectively taking the focus off of the "win/lose" aspect of athletics and instead zeroing in on the best part of playing a sport: being on a team.

Add in Mark Pickell's complete transformation of Hyde Park's iconic space into an indoor soccer stadium and Robert S. Fisher's game-ready sound design, and you are set to channel your inner champion. From start to finish, The Wolves is theatre at its absolute best: honest, real, moving, and fun. At the very least, you are guaranteed to spend the rest of the evening thinking about those long-ago days of never-ending practices, stomach-turning nerves, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and, of course, all the teammates you shared them with. Go see it, and GO HUSTLERS!

The Wolves

Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd
Through Oct. 21
Running time: 1 hr., 30 min.

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Hyde Park Theatre, Sarah DeLappe, Ken Webster, Rosalind Faires, Rebecca Robinson, Mark Pickell, Robert Fisher, Kelsey Buckley, Adrian Collins, Sydney Huddleston, Maria Latiolais, Anikka Levken, Estrella Saldaña, Bridget Sievers, Shonagh Smith, Kenzie Stewart

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